Louis Réard

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Louis Réard
Louis Réard bikini.jpg
Born 1897
Died 16 September 1984
Lausanne, Switzerland
Nationality French
Occupation automobile engineer, fashion designer
Known for popularising bikini

Louis Réard (1897 – 16 September 1984) was a French automobile engineer and clothes designer. He is best known for launching a two-piece swimsuit in 1946, which he called the bikini.[1]

Launching the bikini[edit]

Réard was a mechanical engineer who had taken over his mother's lingerie business in about 1940[2] near Les Folies Bergères in Paris[3] and became a clothes designer. While on St. Tropez beaches, he noticed women rolling up the edges of their swimsuits to get a better tan,[2] which inspired him to design a swimsuit with the midriff exposed.

In May 1946, Jacques Heim produced a two-piece swimsuit that he named the "Atome," which he advertised as the world's "smallest bathing suit".[4][5] The bottom of Heim's swimsuit was just large enough to cover the wearer's navel. To promote his new design, Heim hired skywriters to fly above the Mediterranean resort advertising the Atome as "the world’s smallest bathing suit."[6][7][8]

Réard quickly produced his own swimsuit design which was a string bikini consisting of four triangles made from only 30 square inches (194 cm2) of fabric printed with a newspaper pattern.[2] When Réard sought a model to wear his design at its debut presentation, none of the usual models would wear the suit, so he hired 19-year-old nude dancer Micheline Bernardini[9] from the Casino de Paris to model it.[10] He introduced his new swimsuit, which he named the bikini, to the media and public in Paris on 5 July 1946[11] at Piscine Molitor, a popular public pool in Paris at the time.[12][13] Not to be outdone by Heim, Réard hired his own skywriters to fly over the French Riviera advertising his design as "smaller than the smallest bathing suit in the world."[6]

Two piece swimsuits had been available for at least since the 1930s, but Réard's bikini was controversial because for the first time the wearer's navel was exposed.[14]

Marketing of the bikini[edit]

The bikini was a hit, especially among men, and Bernardini received some 50,000 fan letters.[12] Heim's design was the first worn on the beach, but the genre of clothing was given its name by Réard.[2] Réard's business soared, and in advertisements he kept the bikini mystique alive by declaring that a two-piece suit wasn't a genuine bikini "unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring."[12]

As a further booster for sales, Réard commissioned renowned carbody specialist Chapron to build an extravagant "road yacht" by converting a Packard V8 car into a mock luxury cabin cruiser complete with cockpit, portholes, anchor, signal mast and other nautical regalia. The car (not an amphibian) went on advertising parades and followed the Tour de France cycliste in the early 50's, with a crew of bikini clad girls, causing quite a sensation in period parochial France. [15]

Later life[edit]

Réard afterwards opened a bikini shop in Paris and sold swimsuits for 40 years. In 1980, Réard moved with his wife, Marcelle Réard, from France to Lausanne, Switzerland. He died in Lausanne in 1984 at the age of 87.[16]


  1. ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica's Great Inventions". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 17 September 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c d Westcott, Kathryn (5 June 2006). "The Bikini: Not a brief affair". BBC News. Retrieved 17 September 2008. 
  3. ^ Sage, Adam (16 April 2006). "Happy birthday: the 'shocking and immoral' bikini hits 60". The Times. (registration required (help)). 
  4. ^ Cole, Thomas G. II. "(The) Bikini: EmBodying the Bomb". Genders Journal. 
  5. ^ "The Bikini: One Of Man's Greatest Inventions". CBS News. 2 July 2006. Retrieved 17 September 2008. 
  6. ^ a b "Swimsuit Trivia – The Surprising History of the Bikini". Swimsuit-style.com. Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  7. ^ Cocozza, Paula (2006-06-10). "A little piece of history". The Guardian. 
  8. ^ "The Bikini Turns 60, 1946 to 2006: 60 Years of Bikini Bathing Beauties". Lilith E-Zine. 
  9. ^ Rosebush, Judson. "Michele Bernadini: The First Bikini". Bikini Science. Retrieved 17 September 2008. 
  10. ^ Rosebush, Judson. "Michele Bernadini: The First Bikini". Bikini Science. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-19. 
  11. ^ David Louis Gold (2009). Studies in Etymology and Etiology: With Emphasis on Germanic, Jewish, Romance and Slavic Languages. Universidad de Alicante. pp. 99–. ISBN 978-84-7908-517-9. Retrieved 9 March 2013. 
  12. ^ a b c Bikini Introduced, This Day in History, History Channel
  13. ^ Hoover, Elizabeth D. (2006-07-05). "60 Years of Bikinis". American Heritage Inc. Archived from the original on 2007-09-09. Retrieved 2007-11-13. 
  14. ^ Rubin, Sylvia (2 July 2006). "Fashion shocker of '46: the naked belly button / But the bikini wasn't a hit until Sixties". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  15. ^ Le Bikini
  16. ^ "Louis Reard, Engineer, Dies; Designed the Bikini in 1946". The New York Times. 18 September 1984. Retrieved 17 September 2008. 

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